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Your Oxford Story: Jodie Lancet Grant
30 June 2022
When my twin daughters were about three years old, they started to notice that our family, having two mums and no dad, was a little different to other people’s. As a self-confessed bookworm who has dedicated my entire professional life to making people buy as many books as possible (I’m a Publishing Comms Director in my day job) my first instinct was to seek out children’s titles that reflected our lives. What I found depressed and dismayed me: there was so little choice, and very little of the vibrant, funny, cool publishing that I know dominates leading publishers’ frontlists.
So, with a little encouragement from my wife, I set out to write my own.
It wasn’t a particularly new direction. I’d been writing on the side forever. Some of this was paid: literary reviews in national newspapers, the odd feature, usually on something LGBTQ+ in a magazine or website, copywriting for recruitment ads and even, once, questions for a timeline-based boardgame. More of it wasn’t: the three abandoned novels and some truly terrible poetry that lurk in the deepest recesses of my laptop’s hard drive.
But when I started to write for children, write stories that showed families like mine, stories I did not see myself when I was growing up, something clicked.
OUP was the publisher that made my dream of being an author, of seeing my books on shelves and in people’s hands (and even on TV – thanks to Sue Perkins and Cbeebies Bedtime story) come true. I had a couple of offers, but making the decision to go with OUP was an easy one. Not only did they blow me away with their enthusiasm for my debut, The Pirate Mums, they also had a clear and well-thought through plan of how they would get it to the widest possible audience.
More than that, I wanted to partner with OUP on publishing this book, and the next, The Marvellous Doctors for Magical Creatures, because of their unrivalled reach into classrooms. When I was growing up, Section 28 meant that any mention of LGBTQ+ life in schools was literally illegal. This hugely harmful policy erased queer people from history and made those of us in the present feel alone and unable to picture the kind of future lives we might have. I’ve been delighted to see my books used by teachers, to go into schools to show children that LGBTQ+ people exist, that we can have families and that our lives are joyful. OUP have worked with their teacher and charity contacts, too, to create amazing classroom packs that bring my books to life in lessons in beautiful and arresting ways.
I believe we learn our values young, and with OUP, I hope my books show children that love is love and that they should be proud of whoever they are.